Sorenstam shoots 71 at Colonial
FORT WORTH, Texas, May 22 (UPI) -- Annika Sorenstam demonstrated Thursday she could, indeed, play with the boys.
The No. 1 player in women's golf, the first female to play on the PGA Tour in 58 years, shot a 1-over 71, a round that could easily have been better but one that was better than most had forecast.
A disappointing bogey on her final hole left her in a tie for 59th place midway through the opening round, six shots behind front-runner Patrick Sheehan.
Neither of Sorenstam's playing partner could turn in a score lower than her's. Dean Wilson also shot a 71 and Aaron Barber had a 72. Sorenstam equaled the score recorded by two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen and was one shot better than Steve Elkington, Stuart Appleby and Peter Jacobsen.
Among those Sorenstam bested was Fulton Allem of South Africa, one of her harshest critics during the days leading up to her appearance.
"I'm a man and I'll do what men do," Allem has said. "She is a woman and she should do what women do." Allem shot a 75 Thursday.
Sorenstam stepped to the 10th tee at 8:58 a.m. CDT as close to 2,000 spectators crowded around to get a glimpse of history. Hitting last in her group, Sorenstam drilled her opening tee shot down the middle and then staged a mock swoon, as if to say she was glad that pressure-packed moment had come and gone.
As she headed out onto one of the most acclaimed courses in the United States, Sorenstam was followed by an ever-growing number of people who had to trek through mud left behind by two days of heavy rain.
The throng, however, was not deterred.
"Go, Annika," came the shouts. "Great shot. Go get 'em, kid."
Many members of the gallery wore large green buttons that identified them as backers of Sorenstam's effort. And one male fan wore a hat shaped like a chicken and on the chicken was written the name, "Vijay."
Vijay Singh has been one of the most outspoken critics of Sorenstam's appearance in the tournament and he was originally entered here this week.
But after winning last week in Dallas at the Byron Nelson Championship, Singh withdrew from the Colonial.
The key to Sorenstam's round was her consistency, just as she said she hoped it would be. She hit fairways with regularity, hit the greens, two-putted and headed to the next hole.
Her lone birdie came at the par-3 13th, her fourth hole of the day, when she put her tee shot on the fringe and holed a 15-foot putt.
Sorenstam narrowly missed a 20-foot birdie effort at the 17th, missed a six-footer at the par-3 16th and then failed to make a putt inside 10 feet at the first hole as she started her second nine.
She did, however, save par at the second and sixth holes with tricky, five-foot efforts. Her first bogey came at the fifth, historically the hardest hole on the course, when she missed the fairway to the left, ran her approach shot just onto the green and three-putted from 50 feet.
Needing only a par at the ninth to get away with a 70, she put her second shot onto the back fringe, but ran her first putt six feet past. When she missed the comeback attempt, she had to settle for a 71.
Nets try to get stranglehold on Pistons
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., May 22 (UPI) -- The red-hot New Jersey Nets go for a three games to none lead over Detroit Thursday night in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Game Three, nationally televised by ABC Sports, will be played in East Rutherford, N.J., shortly after the draft lottery in nearby Seacaucus.
The Nets have won an eye-popping eight straight playoff games.
"We turned it on and we haven't been able to turn it off," said New Jersey Coach Byron Scott. "We don't want to turn it off, obviously."
The coach knows that his team is closing in on a second straight trip to the NBA Finals, a journey that would get much easier with a win on Thursday. No team has ever rebounded from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven NBA playoff series.
The second-seeded Nets last played at Continental Airlines Arena on May 7, and get a pair of games at home. They won each of the first two games of the series by two points, and their eight-game playoff run is tied for the sixth-longest in NBA history.
The Nets can match the nine-game runs of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982 and Chicago Bulls in 1996. The San Antonio Spurs had a record 12-game winning streak on the way to the 1999 title.
The top-seeded Pistons blew fourth-quarter leads in each of the first two games. Having lost the first two games at home, they are in a hole that only two teams have climbed out of -- the 1994 Houston Rockets and the 1969 Lakers.
"We could have very easily been on the other side of both of these games," said Detroit guard Jon Barry. "That's what makes this so frustrating."
Detroit has lost 14 of its last 16 road playoff games, but managed a huge win in Philadelphia on Friday to close out its semifinal playoff series.
The Pistons must find an answer for bourgeoning superstar Kenyon Martin, who scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter of Game Two.
Richard Hamilton scored 24 points to lead Detroit in Game Two, but Chauncey Billups continues to struggle. He managed 15 points and 10 assists in Game Two, but is shooting just 28 percent (7-of-25) in the series, and is playing on what was a badly-sprained left ankle.
Rookie Tayshaun Prince, who excelled in the Pistons' first two playoff series, was held to six points in 25 minutes on Tuesday.
The Western Conference finals are tied at a win apiece after San Antonio made its first 24 free throws in a 119-106 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
Tim Duncan had 32 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks, and Malik Rose scored 25 points for the Spurs, who suffered a stunning loss in Game One. The Spurs blew an 18-point lead, partially by missing 17 of their 48 free throw attempts, while Dallas was an unconscious 49-of-50 from the line, the last 49 in a row.
The series shifts to Dallas for Game Three on Friday.
The NBA Finals start June 4 in the city of the West champion.
LeBron James sweepstakes unfold Thursday
SEACAUCUS, N.J., May 22 (UPI) -- High school hoops phenom LeBron James, who has an agent and a sneaker contract, will have a team Thursday night when the NBA Draft lottery is held.
James, the most-hyped scholastic player in history, begins his pro career when the lottery unfolds on live national TV from NBA Entertainment Studios in Seacaucus, N.J.
The consensus top overall pick in the 2003 draft for more than a year earlier this month selected long-time agent Aaron Goodwin to represent him. On Wednesday, he reportedly reached an agreement on an eight-figure deal with Nike.
Goodwin, who also represents superstar guard Gary Payton, will not have to negotiate James' first NBA contract. As the top pick in the draft, he is slotted to receive roughly $16.5 million over four years.
That likely will pale in comparison to the Nike deal, which makes James a successor to Michael Jordan as a pitchman and partner for the "swoosh."
The Akron Beacon-Journal reported Thursday that contract likely will approach $100 million. A Nike spokesman told the paper that terms of the deal are not being disclosed.
It also was announced that James agreed to a trading card and memorabilia deal with Upper Deck.
"I'm just really happy for LeBron," Goodwin told the paper. "His hard work is getting rewarded."
"We felt LeBron is an elite player and exactly what Upper Deck stands for," Upper Deck spokesman Jake Gonzales told the paper.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Nike, the leader in the shoe and apparel industry, was hot on James' trail for months, and made its formal presentation during a meeting in Beaverton, Ore., last weekend. It was the last of the three companies to present its offer to James. The others were Reebok and Adidas.
James is the second soon-to-be NBA player that Nike signed this week. Freshman Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse, who is projected as a top-3 pick in the draft, agreed to a deal with Nike on Tuesday, reportedly worth $21 million over six years.
The 18-year-old James will be one of the world's richest athletes before he is old enough to drink, but the team that drafts him almost certainly will see a marked increase in season ticket sales, national recognition, and wins.
One of the two teams with the best shot at James is Cleveland, which has made no secret of about its desire to acquire James, who basically is a hometown hero, being from nearby Akron, Ohio.
The Cavaliers were fined by the NBA last year for allowing James to participate in workouts with NBA players, and were accused of taking an uncompetitive approach to the past season in order to increase their chances of landing James.
"Nobody likes growing pains, but when we committed ourselves to assembling a solid foundation of young, potential-packed talent, we knew that would be part of the process," Cleveland General Manager Jim Paxson wrote in a letter to fans posted on the team's web site. "The upcoming draft is a major part of this."
James, a supremely talented wing player, turned his senior year at St. Vincent-St. Mary's High School in Akron into a traveling circus. The Irish played from California to New Jersey, and had their games televised by the ESPN cable network and on local pay-per-view.
Along the way, the 6-8 James received a $50,000 Hummer as a gift from his mother, was suspended and quickly reinstated for accepting two "throwback" jerseys from an Ohio sporting goods store, twice eclipsed 50 points in a game, and won the Slam Dunk contest and MVP honors in the McDonald's All-Star Game.
The Cavaliers went 17-65, the same record posted by the Denver Nuggets. As a result, both teams will have a 22.5 percent chance of receiving the top pick.
The odds have been unkind in recent years to the teams at the top of the draw. The last team with the worst record to receive the top pick was the 1990 New Jersey Nets.
The team with the third-best opportunity of getting James is Toronto, which endured an injury-riddled 24-58 campaign and has a 15.7 percent chance.
The lottery, modified many times since its inception in 1985, gives all 13 teams that did not make the playoffs a chance to receive the top pick in the draft. The odds are tilted toward the teams with the worst records.
Fourteen numbered ping-pong balls are placed in a drum. When four are drawn without regard to order, there are 1,001 possible combinations. All but one combination are assigned to the teams by a computer.
Cleveland and Denver each receive 225 combinations. The Houston Rockets, who had the best record of the lottery teams at 43-39, receive just five combinations.
Four balls will be drawn, and the team assigned that combination receives the top pick. The balls are placed back in the drum, and the process is repeated to determine which teams receive the second and third picks.
The process also is repeated if the unassigned combination is drawn or a team already having received a pick has another of its combinations drawn.
After the top three picks are determined, the teams are placed in inverse order of record. Denver can pick no lower than fourth and Cleveland no lower than fifth.
After James, the top picks in the June 26 draft likely will be freshman forward Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse, 7-footer Darko Milicic, a native of Serbia, freshman forward Chris Bosh of Georgia Tech, and 7-footer Chris Kaman of Central Michigan.
The lottery is conducted in a private room in front of team representatives, league executives, and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young. It will be televised by ABC at 8 p.m. Eastern time.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, unaware of the outcome of the drawing, will open envelopes numbered 13 through 1.
Other teams participating in the lottery are Miami (25-57), the Los Angeles Clippers (27-55), Memphis (28-54), Chicago (30-52), Atlanta (35-47), New York (37-45), Washington (37-45), Golden State (38-44), Seattle (40-42), and Houston, which won the lottery last year and selected center Yao Ming of China.
If Memphis wins the lottery, its pick goes to the Detroit Pistons under the terms of a 1997 trade involving Otis Thorpe. Memphis receives Houston's pick as a result of the Steve Francis trade of 1999.
Atlanta has the option to convey its pick to Milwaukee as part of last year's Glenn Robinson deal.
McNair arrested on DUI, weapons charge
NASHVILLE, May 22 (UPI) -- Quarterback Steve McNair of the Tennessee Titans was arrested early Thursday morning and charged with drunken driving and possession of a handgun.
A spokesman for the Nashville Police Department confirmed that McNair was arrested in downtown Nashville, posted bond, and was later released. A blood-alcohol test given McNair was above Tennessee's legal limit of 0.10.
The Nashville Tennesseean reported that McNair consented to a Breathalyzer test, and registered a .18, well over the legal limit in the state of Tennessee.
When his vehicle was searched, the arresting officer also found a loaded handgun. McNair has a permit for the weapon, but it is not valid if he is impaired.
The Tennesseean also said McNair was taken to night court, and that the incident occurred sometime after two o'clock in the morning.
McNair, 30, who is scheduled to appear at an offseason workout on Thursday, enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2002 as the Titans advanced to the AFC championship game, losing to the Oakland Raiders. He battled through a series of injuries to throw for 3,387 yards and 22 touchdowns.
He was a first-round draft choice of the Titans in 1995. He helped Tennessee reach the first Super Bowl in franchise history in 1999, and was third in the MVP balloting last season.
The 6-2, 229-pounder, who played collegiately at Alcorn State, has thrown for 19,422 yards and 108 touchdowns in his career, with 76 interceptions. He also has rushed for 3,037 yards and 30 scores in his eight years, all with the Titans.
Murphy named AD at Northwestern
EVANSTON, Ill., May 22 (UPI) -- Former Washington Redskins All-Pro safety Mark Murphy has been named the new athletic director at Northwestern.
He has held a similar post at Colgate the past 11 years. His new job becomes effective June 16.
"Mark understands our goals and values at Northwestern -- to maintain the highest academic standards while competing at the highest level on the field, and providing outstanding recreational opportunities for our students," said President Henry S. Bienen. "We are confident that, under his direction, Northwestern's athletics will continue their recent track record of success, and our club sports and recreational offerings will be enhanced even further for the entire Northwestern community."
Murphy holds both a law degree and an MBA, and brings a record of success both on and off the field during his 11 years as AD at Colgate, a member of the Division I Patriot League.
Colgate's football program went from 0-11 in 1995 to three consecutive appearances in the NCAA I-AA playoffs, and the men's basketball team has twice advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Also, the Colgate women's soccer team has captured eight Patriot League championships and made three NCAA tournament appearances, while the women's volleyball team has been to the NCAA tournament twice. In addition, the softball and men's ice hockey teams also made appearances in the NCAA tournament.
"I'm very much looking forward to joining Northwestern," Murphy said. "I view this as a tremendous opportunity professionally. The combination of outstanding athletics with academics at the highest level, which is somewhat unique in college athletics, is both exciting and challenging."
Murphy succeeds Charles F. (Rick) Taylor, who will retire Aug. 31 after 10 years at Northwestern.
"I view my new role as being an advocate for getting (coaches) what they need to be successful," Murphy said. "I think, generally, I believe in giving coaches free rein in the sense of handling their teams. I'm not going to call in the football coach and say, 'Why did you use cover-two in that situation? You should've blitzed.' Those are coaches' decisions."
Bonds hobbling slightly on gimpy ankle
SAN FRANCISCO, May 22 (UPI) -- Veteran slugger Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants is out indefinitely after sustaining a mile ankle sprain Wednesday night against Arizona.
Bonds, the most imposing offensive force in the National League despite being 38 years old, suffered the injury running out a ground ball to second base in the Giants' 6-0 victory, and pulled himself from the game. He is listed as day-to-day.
"I'm fine," Bonds stated after the game.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Giants head trainer Stan Conte called the injury a "tweak," and said Bonds should not miss any games.
"Barry will be OK with the day off," said San Francisco Manager Felipe Alou. "He will be in the lineup."
"It was a very, very mild ankle turn," Conte said. "He just kind of turned his ankle on the base."
Bonds, who had a three-run double earlier in the game, is batting .288 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. He leads the major leagues with 43 walks and a .488 on-base percentage.
He needs 35 homers to tie his godfather Willie Mays for third on the all-time list.
Devil Rays activate Grieve
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., May 22 (UPI) -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Ben Grieve, who has been sidelined for more than a month, was activated Thursday from the 15-day disabled list.
Grieve, the 1998 American League Rookie of the Year, went on the DL on April 18 with an infection near the base of his left thumb, and was kept on the DL an extra day.
He was batting .244 with just two RBI in 15 games for the Devil Rays.
Grieve, who was acquired from the Oakland Athletics in a three-team deal involving the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2001 season, batted .251 with 19 home runs and 64 RBI in 136 games last year.
To make room for Grieve, the Devil Rays optioned lefthander Jim Parque to Triple-A Durham of the International League.
Parque did not get a decision in the Devil Rays' 8-7 loss, but was knocked out after allowing five runs and seven hits in just 2 1/3 innings.
He has been ineffective all year for the Devil Rays, posting a 1-1 record with an 11.94 ERA in five starts, allowing 23 earned runs, 27 hits, and 16 walks in 17 1/3 innings.
Mets put David Bell on DL
NEW YORK, May 22 (UPI) -- The New York Mets Thursday added backup infielder Jay Bell to their already crowded disabled list.
He was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right groin.
Bell, 37, signed as a non-roster player over the winter, so far has been a bust. He is hitting just .214 with no homers and three RBI in 31 games.
He is the ninth player on the Mets' disabled list, a group that includes star catcher Mike Piazza, who could miss the rest of the season because of a right groin tear, and first baseman Mo Vaughn, who is out with a knee injury.
Outfielder Jeromy Burnitz, sidelined since late April with a broken bone in his left hand, is expected to be activated in time for this weekend's series in Atlanta.
The Mets called up lefthander Pedro Feliciano from Triple-A Norfolk of the International league to replace Bell on the roster.
Feliciano was 3-2 with a 3.97 ERA and one save in 15 games.
Moehler facing elbow surgery
Moehler, who called Wednesday "one of the darkest days of my days in baseball," now must decide to either undergo an extensive rehab period or have the surgery. He has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 17 with tendonitis.
"Tommy John surgery would not only finish his season this year, but next year as well," said Houston General Manager Gerry Hunsicker. "That's a long haul. The other option is starting the conservative rehab, but that probably doesn't have great odds, and the best case scenario is six to eight weeks before he can compete."
"I want to decide as quick as possible," he said. "If I'm going to have surgery, I want to do it right away. I don't want to keep waiting. I'll go home and think about it, and in the next couple days I'll have a decision."
Moehler, two years removed from undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, has plans to speak with a number of players who have had the Tommy John procedure before he makes his decision.
"If I rehab, I'm out at least until the All-Star break, pretty simple, and there's no guarantee I'll be back," Moehler told the Houston Chronicle.
For the season, Moehler is 0-0 with a 7.90 ERA in three starts for the Astros. He left a rehab start for Triple-A New Orleans of the Pacific Coast League Monday after just two innings.
Moehler, 31, has a career record of 50-56. In his eight-year career with Detroit, Cincinnati, and the Astros, he has pitched 866 innings, has an ERA of 4.57, and 469 strikeouts.
Royals put Asencio on DL
SEATTLE, May 22 (UPI) -- The Kansas City Royals, who have had pitching problems of late, have placed Miguel Asencio on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation.
The move is retroactive to May 16.
One day after Runelvys Hernandez was scratched from his scheduled start with a sore right elbow, Asencio suffered the same fate, and was replaced by lefthander Chris George, who beat the Oakland Athletics Wednesday night.
Asencio experienced soreness in his right elbow following his start last Thursday in Minnesota.
"What we saw on the (Asencio) MRI was that there was some swelling in the joint," said Kansas City trainer Nick Swartz. "The problem we have in his situation is how long it's going to take to get the swelling out of the inside of that joint. It has to naturally take its course. With that in mind, we decided to disable him and give him ample time to get the swelling down."
In eight starts this season, the 22-year-old righthander is 2-1 with one complete game and a 5.21 ERA. Asencio owns a 6-8 record in 39 career games, including 29 starts, with a 5.14 ERA.
"I'm hoping that by the weekend he can start playing some long toss," Swartz said. "If we don't get any stiffness, the next move would be to go back to mound throwing."
To replace Asencio on the roster, the Royals recalled lefthander Scott Mullen from Triple-A Omaha of the Pacific Coast League.
Mullen, who posted a 4-5 record in 44 appearances with Kansas City last season, has a 3.58 ERA in 72 career games.
Blum out of hospital
HOUSTON, May 22 (UPI) -- The Houston Astros are listing infielder Geoff Blum as day-to-day after he was diagnosed with a mild case of viral meningitis.
That form of the illness is not contagious.
Blum was released from The Methodist Hospital late Wednesday afternoon after an overnight stay, and was recovering so well, he could be back for Thursday night's contest against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"If he's up to it, he'll rejoin them (Thursday)," said General Manager Gerry Hunsicker. "He'll probably need a day or two. He may be available to pinch hit, but it'll be a couple days before he's able to get back in the lineup."
"I'm felling better," Blum said.
"The symptoms subsided, and he was able to rest comfortably," Hunsicker told the Houston Chronicle.
Blum, 30, was scratched from the Astros' lineup Tuesday and taken to Methodist after experiencing a severe headache and fever before the game.
Blum is hitting .285 with four homers and 18 RBI. He has played in 42 games, including 32 starts at third base.
Canadiens ink No. 1 pick Higgins
MONTREAL, May 22 (UPI) -- The Montreal Canadiens on Thursday agreed to terms on a three-year contract with center Chris Higgins, their first-round pick in the 2002 draft.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Higgins, who turns 20 on June 2, was the 14th player selected in last year's draft, but returned to Yale for his sophomore season. He had 41 points to lead the Bulldogs in scoring for the second straight season.
The 5-11, 192-pounder had 20 goals and 21 assists and was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top college player in the United States.
He was a member of the U.S. National Junior Team for the second straight year, and collected three goals and three assists at the World Junior Hockey Championship, helping the Americans to a bronze medal in January.
With Montreal, Higgins will play for a team that has missed the NHL playoffs four times in five years.